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Concert Review: The Pixies at the Fillmore

Had the entire crowd walked out of the Fillmore mid-show Monday night and been replaced by a blessing of unicorns, I’m not sure ol’ Black Frankie would’ve even noticed.

Ever since their 2004 reunion, the Pixies have toured consistently — at least in recent years — and hit Philadelphia a number of times. The band is old-school; it plays different setlists every night, and frontman Black Francis is well known for his lack of inter-show conversational discourse with his audience. Unlike performances from some other bands (especially the younger ones), a mutual affection between the Pixies and the people who pay to watch them play isn’t always abundantly obvious. In fact, had the entire crowd walked out of the Fillmore mid-show Monday night and been replaced by a blessing of unicorns, I’m not sure ol’ Black Frankie would’ve even noticed.

But that’s who the Pixies are. There’s no on-stage “we love you so much” shoutouts to the audience a la Taylor Swift to her “Swifties.” You’re here to see them. Not the other way around. After all, if you attended the Fillmore show and weren’t on the band’s guest list, you paid $55 to get in, which is on the high end of the indie rock concert ticket spectrum. That’s not to say the Pixies aren’t worth it (after all, the band is a key progenitor of the indie scene as we know it), it’s just to say that when you walk through those venue doors, the Pixies have you where they want you. That $55 doesn’t even include an encore. You have to “earn” the encore. Philadelphia learned this the hard way at the Pixies February 2014 performance at the Electric Factory.

“The crowd didn’t earn an encore,” Francis said in an interview with Philly-based Magnet Magazine after the encore-less show, which was the only time that happened on that tour (up until that point, at least). “I’m old school that way. I’m Vaudeville. I find that when the audience is younger, they want you to hold their hand and smile and kick the beach ball around, and we don’t do that. We don’t do jazz hands.”

But if you’re a longtime Pixies fan, you’ve learned to expect this. Being that the Pixies’ key demographic consists predominantly of Generation X indie OGs in the know, it’s likely that most of the fanbase has been to its fair share of concerts and has seen the Pixies before. This ain’t their first rodeo.

What we do know is, due to the band’s consistent touring, Black Francis and company have gotten a good portion of the entire Pixies’ catalog down pat, so the show was without many hiccups. In fact, because of the Pixies’ intrepid coolness, any flubbed chord changes or flat notes basically enhance the band’s aesthetic. The explanation for this is best summed up in the words of Dewey Finn: “Rock ain’t about doing things perfect.”

Best of all, Monday night’s Fillmore crowd apparently beat out the 2014 Electric Factory crowd on the enthusiasm meter because the Pixies played an encore. It consisted of only one song: Surfer Rosa’s “Vamos.” But hey, we’ll take it.

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